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Sunday, April 14, 2024

African American Soldier Detained in North Korea Returns to U.S. Custody

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Travis King, the young American soldier who crossed into North Korea from South Korea in July, has returned to U.S. custody, according to a U.S. official. North Korea had previously announced its decision to expel King, claiming that he had confessed to illegally entering their country.

U.S. officials have confirmed that King is in good health and high spirits upon his return. Brigadier Gen. Patrick Ryder, spokesperson for the Pentagon, expressed gratitude for the extensive efforts of U.S. military personnel and the cooperation of Sweden and China in facilitating King’s repatriation.

African American Soldier Detained in North Korea Returns to U.S. Custody
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Army soldier Travis King appears in this unknown location, undated photo obtained by REUTERS/File Photo

King’s case unfolded when he went on a guided tour of the border village of Panmunjom while in South Korea. He then absconded from an airport in Seoul, where he was supposed to board a flight back to the U.S. North Korea alleged that King had expressed grievances of “inhuman maltreatment and racial discrimination” within the U.S. Army during their investigation, but these claims have not been verified by the U.S. military.

Initially, King was expected to return to the U.S. after serving time in a detention facility in South Korea for assaulting two individuals and damaging a police car. However, he departed from his U.S. military escort at the airport, skipped his flight, and joined a civilian tour group heading towards the border town, ultimately crossing into North Korea.

In an interview with The Associated Press, King’s mother, Claudine Gates, highlighted her son’s reasons for wanting to return home, citing the presence of family and his strong desire to reunite with them.

King had joined the U.S. Army in January 2021 but had not been deployed for active duty. He was stationed in South Korea as part of the regular Korean Force Rotation. Professor Yang Moo-jin of the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul speculated that King may have appeared “unsuitable for propaganda purposes” to North Korea, given that he entered their territory as a fugitive, which presented challenges for North Korean authorities. Yang also suggested that North Korea’s decision to deport King could have been influenced by the lukewarm response from the U.S. in handling the incident.

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